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Advice from the man in the red coat
Published 10/02/14

THERE are always two emotions when planning a wedding, says toastmaster James Hasler. The first is always joy, after all this is going to be one of the most special days of your life. The second however, is more daunting as it can be in the form of fear — not about getting married, but about the day itself.

Most of you reading this article will be getting married for the first and only time. Therefore you do not have the experience of being a bride or bridegroom before to help you make it through your day.

So how can you get over this issue? Very simply employ a toastmaster or Master of Ceremonies, who will have done it before.

Why would you want to use a toastmaster? Most people’s perception of a professional toastmaster is that of a man in a bright red tailcoat that makes announcements. If that is all they do, it seems a bit much and in some people’s mind is showing off just to have someone to do that! However, if you thought that was all they did, you would be very wrong as that part of their function is only the tip of the iceberg.

So what else do they do? In short they are the link that joins everything up to make your celebration run smoothly. They have the responsibility of keeping an event running to schedule, to ensure all the guests are being looked after and to keep everybody informed as to what is happening, or about to happen. They work in conjunction with the venue, the caterers, the florist, the photographer, the videographer and the band or DJ — in fact anyone involved with events taking place at your celebration.

They ensure that these people are working as a team to guarantee the smooth running of your day and if there are any minor hitches, smooth them out so the impact of any delay is unnoticed.

However, why employ a toastmaster when the venue manager could do this job? Very simply the venue manger works for the venue and the toastmaster works for you. He is your eyes and ears on the day, checking out your every wish and guiding you through the occasion. The venue manager may have your interests at heart, but invariably they are distracted by other issues, from coordinating the catering to moving a room around. They will also be camouflaged in a suit like many of your guests and therefore will lack the impact of the toastmaster when it comes to informing people what is going on.

Why also would you use a toastmaster when a friend or relative could do the job? There are several reasons for this:

– Wouldn’t it be nice for the friend or relative to enjoy the wedding too? And would they have the specialist knowledge to know how to do it without it being amateurish?

– Do they have the tact and diplomacy to work with all the other services involved behind the scenes?

– Do you really want to give them the responsibility of running your day — imagine if something didn’t go as it should? It could become very awkward if they are friends and family.

– Do they have 5 million worth of insurance in case of the unexpected? It’s better to let a professional who stands out from the crowd to take on this responsibility.

So why do toastmasters wear red jackets? Without going into the history of the subject there is one very good reason and that is so that they are easily identifiable. It becomes very clear that the man or woman in the red coat is the one calling the shots and therefore they are the person to take instruction from.

To contact James Hasler call 07773 229909.

This is important, as when we are doing things that are unfamiliar to us, or we are in unfamiliar surroundings, we all like instruction to guide us through the proceedings. However, depending on the person you engage it is not essential they wear the red coat, they could wear anything that is suitable, but remember the red coat helps them stand out.

This then brings us back full circle as to why you would want to hire a Toastmaster. As mentioned this is, chances are, the first and only time you will be putting on such a fabulous party for yourself and your friends. As such you do not have firsthand experience. However, using an experienced professional Toastmaster who has that specialist knowledge, means that you can relax and enjoy the day as much as your friends. They guide you through it, as much as they guide your guests, leading you through every process meaning you do not have to think about what is going to happen. You can chill out and allow yourself to be lead through the day affording you the luxury to relax and socialise.

Many people invest a large amount of money, time and effort into their wedding day. However, more often than not, if they have not used a Toastmaster, they had the chance to relax and as such not really enjoyed the day as they could have, being stressed out by the process and timing of things within the event. This is a shame given the investment they have put in. So think about it, for the relatively small amount you would pay to hire a Toastmaster it could save you considerably more, as well as allow you to really enjoy all that you have invested.

Here is an example of all the things that the Toastmaster is doing for you on the day.

If there is a religious ceremony held at a place of worship* followed by a reception then they will be waiting to greet the bride and bridegroom and their guests at the reception venue, arriving at least an hour before. In that time not only will they have been preparing their attire, but also more importantly they should be familiarising themselves with the venue and checking with all the relevant and important people that they have the same schedule of events as they do.

They should then be on hand to help with the following

• Meet and greet the guests and family to guide them and to be on hand to assist in any way they can with directions and any questions that may come their way

• Work with catering staff to ensure drinks are ready for all who require them

• Work to assist the Photographer and Videographer with timing as well as giving them the nod prior to any potential key moments to ensure nothing is missed on film

• Work with the event and catering staff to ensure the wedding breakfast runs as smoothly as possible

• Organise the receiving line (if required)

• Call the guests to breakfast (reminding them of table plans if not already seen)

• Announce guests at the receiving line (if required)

• Inform the guests what is expected of them upon announcement of the wedding party

• Announce the arrival of the parents of the bride and bridegroom (if required)

• Announce the arrival of the bride and bridegroom at the wedding breakfast as well as leading them in

• If required say grace or announce a guest to do so

• Announce to all as to how and when they should collect their food, if there is a buffet

• Insure that if there is a guest book that it is circulated around all the tables and that, if provided, table cameras are used

• Make sure that all who are to speak are ready and prepared

• Announce the wedding speeches

• Ensure any gifts and flowers are placed where they can be easily handed out by whoever is to do so

• Announce the cutting of the cake and guide the bride and bridegroom through it

• Once the meal is over, announce the departure of the bride and bridegroom from the wedding breakfast and at this time give out any announcements with respect to any room “change around”. Then lead the Bride and Bridegroom out.

• Depending on if/when there is a first dance, they could be on hand to make any final announcements and to ensure all guests are forewarned

• Once all is set for the dancing and further festivities, they would announce the return of the guests and the happy couple’s first dance. At this point they would then hand over to the DJ or band as that would then conclude their normal run of duties

• Finally, while all the above is taking place, they should be on constant duty, liaising with all those behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly so that the client truly has the best day of their lives.

* If the client is having a civil ceremony in the same venue as the reception then they should be on site approximately 2 hours prior to the start of the ceremony to assist with registrars and any early arrivals. Religious ceremonies are not just linked to Christians. Most professionally trained Toastmasters are familiar with ceremonies for virtually every type culture found in the UK today.

So as you can see, a bit more than just announcing!

** Things to be aware of when engaging a Toastmaster

Please note that all the items mentioned in the example of service are what the author of this article does and it is what other Toastmasters should be doing. If they have been properly trained by a recommended Guild or Association they should do the same or very similar. Anyone can buy a red tailcoat and call themselves a Toastmaster. Therefore it is recommended that you ask if they are a fellow or member of a Guild or Association, and then check out that it is genuine.

There are a plethora of Guilds and Associations who can guide you to the services of their members. There are two important things you need to check. The first is the aforementioned training, the second, and this is very important, is insurance. They should be covered by at very least 1 million pounds worth of insurance, but ideally in this day and age 5 million pounds worth. As the Toastmaster is in your employ, you could be jointly liable for any mistake he or she makes, so always ask about insurance hence why you may not wish to use a friend or family!

The next thing is, you should never just employ the least expensive. I recommend that you contact a few and have a proper conversation with each. The most important thing is that they are the right personality for you and your guests and the only way to find this out is by having a decent conversation, preferably face to face or at least, in this age of technology, on Skype.

No event is too small as long as guidance is required. For Parties of 40 they can be a great help, with numbers over eighty they are highly recommended and for the likes of Asian weddings where there are regularly guest numbers exceeding 200, they are absolutely essential.

To sum up a Toastmaster adds a touch of class and sense of occasion to your event, but most importantly they control and coordinate everything removing the stress from the wedding party to ensure a great celebration is had by all. “It is unlikely that you will remember what they said, but you will remember how they made you feel.”

About the author James Hasler - Raised in Peppard, James has acted on many occasions on the Kenton stage over the last 25 years and was a GamesMaker Team Leader at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He is Fellow of the Guild of International Professional Toastmasters and works as a professional event host and master of ceremonies, presentation skills trainer, motivational speaker, voice artist and father to his 3 year old daughter Madeleine (by far the most difficult job of all!)

For more information - www.themanintheredcoat.co.uk www.jameshasler.co.uk 07773 229909

Published 10/02/14

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